Thursday, 30 August.
Our first Irish B&B experience was pretty good but, as the days have passed (as I write, we are in our fourth B&B) I would have to say it was only acceptable to good compared to others we have experienced - but more on those when I get to the relevant day. The establishment we stayed at in Killorglin pretty well packed the customers in - there was sleeping for four in our room, when three would have been cosy - but our hosts were friendly and breakfast was excellent. As planned, we had a big breakfast so we would only need the evening meal - we are pretty cheap, after all!
Today's plan was to drive the Ring of Kerry and see as much as we could, while leaving enough time to visit Ross Castle , have dinner in Killarney and make it to Angela's Mum in Newcastle West by 6 pm - tall order, but we were up for it! So, once we had packed in our brekkie and packed up the car, off we went. The weather was a bit overcast to begin with and we even had some misty rain, but that soon cleared up and we had a gorgeous day again, for the most part.
The Ring has so many beauty spots we could have taken three days to drive around it, but we had to pass up a lot of photo opportunities in the interest of "doing a few things well". So many people want to take their time enjoying the scenery in this fantastic place that they risk life and limb to cycle or walk the Ring on the narrow roads. Somehow, they survive Irish driving....
To begin with, we contented ourselves with enjoying the view across Dingle Bay, back to the Dingle Peninsula where we had been only yesterday. Our first stop was at Cahersiveen, where we had a quick look at the church built in memory of Daniel O'Connell, a 19th century Irish activist. Another, less grand but very attractive, church that grabbed our attention was high on a cliff just after Cahersiveen, where we had a beautiful, last look across to the Dingle Peninsula.
Other stops along the way included the spectacular Coomakesla Pass, where it is always windy; Caherdaniel, where we chatted to a walker from Belgium who had already spent 19 days walking the ring; the incredible, 2500 year old Staigue Fort near Castlecove and a short shopping stop in the very pretty town of Sneem. With time pressing a bit, we then had another stop-free run to Ladies View, which provides an expansive panorama down the valley to the Lakes of Killarney.
On the run down the hill to Killarney, we had to forgo beautiful stops, such as Torc waterfall and Muckross House, to ensure we had plenty of time at Ross Castle. For those who don't know, this is the ancestral family area and, according to my Dad, we are descended directly from the chieftains who ran these parts - and we all believe everything our Dads tell us when we are children, don't we, Anne? Anyway, this is certainly the ancestral region and this was my first real opportunity to see the castle since it was fully renovated. It has been done really well and there is a very informative tour that provides an excellent insight into the life of a 16th century noble Irish household. Some details are best left to when you do the tour yourselves, but the conditions of life were not very desirable, even if you were the boss. One interesting comparison, though - the renovation, which faithfully used 16th century materials and techniques, took 21 years and €130m. The original construction took only six years. It probably also chewed up a fair chunk of the local economy, but no-one was counting.
After the tour, we went into Killarney town and had an excellent pub meal - with Guinness, of course. Then, on to Newcastle West where Mary and Jim made us very welcome, as always. Having already had dinner, all we had to do for the evening was drink tea (and beer) and tell stories, which we did with enthusiasm until fatigue got the better of us. This was an altogether excellent day and we could easily drive the Ring again and again. Highly recommended if you ever visit Ireland.
Until next time, "slán abhaile". Marie, Angela and Ray.